The Brainerd Mission - The Trail Was A Circle Presented Nov. 10-12

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Trail was a Circle, an original historic production that incorporates music, film and drama to allow theatergoers to step back in time to the early 1800's, will be presented Nov. 10-12.

The Trail Was A Circle will be presented at Brainerd High School, 1020 N. Moore Road, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10-11, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 12, at 2:30 p.m. 

Review for The Trail Was A Circle: 

Most of us are familiar with the Trail of Tears, when the Cherokee Indians of Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia and surrounding areas were forced to leave their homes and move west. Many are not familiar with Chattanooga’s finest Christian story of an unusual school established where Eastgate Towne Center now stands. 

Brainerd Mission, originally called Chickamauga Mission proved to be a rare school. Not born the same way so many missions to Native Americans were in the 1800s, Brainerd Mission did not force themselves on the Cherokee of the region, Instead, the mission board requested permission from the Cherokee Nation to establish a school. Cherokee leaders took the request under consideration at a council and agreed to the establishment of the mission to educate their children. That would be extraordinary even by today’s standards.  

According to journals kept by missionaries, the student body consisted of about one-third each of Cherokee, black and white students. The white students were mostly children of missionaries and the black students, children of slaves owned by the Cherokee and of some freemen who lived among the Cherokee. The distribution of thirds remained consistent throughout the 21 years the school existed – up until it closed due to the Cherokee removal. 

Prior to the removal, Brainerd Mission missionaries were harassed, arrested, beaten and imprisoned. A Georgia state law passed forbidding the missionaries to live among the Cherokee, even if they had been invited. Although the Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor of the missionaries and the Cherokee, it made little difference in the end. A little-known fact is that some of the missionaries and blacks walked the trail with Cherokee. 

This year we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the mission’s establishment. This story was dramatic then; the story is still dramatic and speaks to today’s world. This original historic theater production incorporates music, film and drama to allow theatergoers to step back in time to Chattanooga in the early 1800's.  

Bruce Sloan, Catoosa County resident, former pastor of First Baptist Church of Ringgold and current pastor of Ridgeview Baptist Church in Chattanooga, as well as a former columnist for the Catoosa County News, is serving as a historian for the play, along with David Clapp, former head of library services for the Chattanooga Library. 

Daisy Pratt, playwright, from Ripple Productions theater company in Chattanooga, was initially inspired in 2006 upon her return to Chattanooga by a display telling the Mission Story at Audubon Acres, located on the former farm of Robert Walker, the author of Torchlights to the Cherokees, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1931. Mr. Walker designated his farm be used as a museum and wild life sanctuary. The father of Laura Jean Ross, Brainerd Mission Project and Audubon Board Member, had erected a display about the Brainerd Mission at Audubon Acres. Ms. Pratt directed Black Elk Speaks a few years ago and at that time promised local Cherokees she would tell their story and in memory of her Cherokee grandfather, whose family fled during the roundup. 

Ms. Pratt continued extensive research in consultation with several well-known Cherokee leaders in the area, including Tamera Hicks, director of Native American Services, Elkspirit Dancer, a professional costume designer and other Cherokee Indians who provided cultural guidance to ensure authenticity.  

Original music scores by Dr. Jim Burns, retired music professor and former director of the Lee Singers, Lee University in Cleveland, provides an eclectic mix of music representing the three cultures. A professional company will provide lights and sound.  

“The Trail Was A Circle” is produced in partnership with Native American Services of Tennessee, Ridgeview Baptist Church, DAR Regent’s Council of Chattanooga and the Nancy Ward Chapter, SAR Sevier Society of Audubon Acres, Cherokee Area Council of Boy Scouts of America, WTCI-TV, Burns & Co., Baron Studios, Live to Inspire and Ripple theatre. 

Tickets are $8-$12 and available online at:

For more information visit

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